the age of the grotesque

Another day of reading magazines at The Wall in East St Kilda, and one of the best images of the year stops me in my tracks.

My current issue in making dance is how to make it without making any. Moves, that is. How to recreate the feeling of watching dancers move blindingly fast, always on the verge of disaster, crashing, colliding, everything turning to shit, yet in the middle of this holocaust of complexity it all survives. Making stuff like that takes time, it’s like microsurgery, painstakingly reattaching every capillary with invisible, microscopic sutures.

Then also holding on to two incompatible directions in what I do, one towards a zero degree of performance, the other simultaneously a baroque opulence of spectacle. And to regard this as ballet, as dance by virtue solely of using dancers in what otherwise are more like performance art installations.

Earlier last year I read all of Iain M Banks’ Culture series and his other Science-Fiction books. In particular I was taken by the space ship Sleeper Service, in which people who wanted to take a break from the culture for a few hundred years or so could go into suspended animation, on one condition. They would become part of a tableau of famous historic events, the largest of which was the final land battle of a pre-contact culture.

The point in all of this, is how to recreate in the real world the abilities of the virtual. How to recreate what exists in film, photography, computer-generated visual effects, not as a sculpture of inanimate objects but with real people, with all the appearance of being frozen in time. How to reduce dance, and in particular the formal spectacle of ballet down to a single, motionless instant. To recreate Goya’s Disasters of War using shop mannequins as the Chapmans did is one thing in the game of simulacra. To do the same with human corpses is absolutely another. To do it without falling victim to cheap shock tricks… To do it with live people…

So thinking of all of this while getting ready for the installation/performance in Guangzhou in a month, and reading some magazine, I saw the work of Sue de Beer. A work of genius. Then Emile told me the NGV has a free exhibition on at the moment, Grotesque: The Diabolical and Fantastic in Art, with works by from Goya and the Chapmans. Oh horror, how I adore you.